When I am in my painting, I’m not aware of what I’m doing. It’s only after a sort of “get acquainted” period that I see what I have been about. I have no fears about making changes, destroying the image, etc., because the painting has a life of its own.
Jackson Pollack, quoted in Possibilities I, Winter 1947-48
I think that lots of people recognise that in the act of creation the artist may have no concious connection to the thing he is creating. This certainly does not reduce his rights over the final work. In fact, if my artistic method is to fling paint backwards over my shoulder onto a canvas that is swinging on a pedulum from a seizmograph standing on a weather vane stuck in an ant hill, no one will deny my authorship of the result or refuse me copyright protection for it (although they may refuse to pay large sums of money for it). I think I could even hook something up so that it recorded my tossing and turning as I slept and created an art work from that.
Copyright is secured automatically when the work is created, and a work is “created” when it is fixed in a copy or phonorecord for the first time. “Copies” are material objects from which a work can be read or visually perceived either directly or with the aid of a machine or device, such as books, manuscripts, sheet music, film, videotape, or microfilm…. If a work is prepared over a period of time, the part of the work that is fixed on a particular date constitutes the created work as of that date.
Since conciousness isn’t necessary for a work to be considered art, I want you to consider a work of sculpture that I have been about for many years. It’s a multipart work, with 10 pieces, I prefer people to appreciate them together, but each one stands on it own as well.
I have managed to create, at massive, but unconcious effort an extraordinarily fine structure on my fingers. I began work on it before birth, and although it’s largely done, I may still change it a little throughout my life. It is completely unique. I know other people who have created a similar work, but mine stands apart.
Although they were affected by my environment as I created them (what art isn’t?), no one can deny that it was me that made them.
Somehow I have managed to express much of my soul in them and with them to the extent that an American customs official I met once could spot my style from just one look at these sculptures, and knew my name.
Now my problem is that I believe this same customs official copied my art. I had not granted him a license to do so, but nevertheless, he made an electronic copy and stored it in a computer system.
What is copyright infringement?
As a general matter, copyright infringement occurs when a copyrighted work is reproduced, distributed, performed, publicly displayed, or made into a derivative work without the permission of the copyright owner.
To avoid future confusion, I make the following declaration:
I hereby assert all rights in my fingerprints, moral and legal. I am the owner of all creative rights in their regard. I will make copies in a variety of mediums, and will leave them in a number of places for free. You are granted the right to observe them, but not to copy them in any way, shape or form, including making a derivative work from them. Setting them in an alternative context is considered making a deriviative work. Allowing you the limited right to observe them close up, or through the use of electronic equipment does not imply the right to store a copy of them or reproduce them for any reason whatsoever.
If that doesn’t work, then perhaps I can apply for patents on them – there are already over 4 million patents on gene sequences, similar simple biological structures. The difficulties there may be even easier as gene sequences aren’t even created by the patenters, just observed.